Welcome to our first look of the year at the world foods category. With people of over 270 nationalities now living in the UK, it’s an impossible task for a wholesaler to list foods from every single country! How do you please everybody?
The simple answer is, you can’t. The individual wholesaler has to decide which countries’ foods to focus on, and constantly refresh and refine their product range to meet the requirements of the retailers and caterers that they supply.
Specialist importers and distributors have been bringing foods from overseas into Britain for many years and are happy to advise wholesalers on what to do. Various importers and brokers like RH Amar focus on foods from the Mediterranean, based on their knowledge of these cuisines. Wing Yip concentrate on Oriental foods, based on their in depth understanding of the needs of Chinese restaurants. And Grace Foods, KTC, Wanis and others primarily target the Afro-Caribbean and South Asian communities, with which they have strong links.
London has always been a cosmopolitan place, the arrival point for more people from overseas than anywhere else in Britain. Thirty years ago the challenge of sourcing food that appealed to London’s incoming population was simpler than it is now. At that point half the new consumers in London reportedly came from just five countries – India, Kenya, Jamaica, Cyprus and Bangladesh. Since then South Asian, Mediterranean and Afro Caribbean food and drink products have become well represented in grocery and crossed over into the mainstream.
Polish food, the major world foods success story in recent years, hit the spotlight in 2004 after 10 new states joined the EU and large numbers of Eastern Europeans came here to work. The grocery importers, the wholesalers and the independent retailers they served responded rapidly by offering a wide variety of Polish and other food and drink.
Ten years on, the East European community here represents a growing market for world foods. In 2014 there were around 1.25 million UK residents from the EU8 countries – Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, up 12% on the year before. In addition there are an estimated 235,000 Romanian and Bulgarian born residents.
Finally, there are also significant opportunities for wholesalers to list products for people who have come here from places like Nigeria, Korea, Turkey and Somalia, all with their own distinctive cuisines which remain largely overlooked by the supermarkets. We look forward to reporting on how the wholesale trade responds.